Insights From Tourism Director Doris Höhenwarter

What is it that makes trail running events successful?

Is it the beauty of the  location?

The amenities and extras?

The convenience and ease with which the athletes and spectators can enjoy the festivities?

It’s likely a mix of all of the above. When I participate in such an outdoor event, I want to be wowed by something (or everything), excited by the atmosphere, impressed with the organization and spoiled rotten by the food, drinks and free stuff that are part of the package.

When coming from the spectator side of things, I want to be able to cheer on my pals who are competing while also enjoying a fun, unique and easy trip away from my normal life. As an athlete I want the pre-planning, day-of-support and the benefits pre and post race that are so important to a low-risk and enjoyable run. These are all things -for athlete and spectator – that the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships will have in spades and we are ready and very willing to spoil you.

There is a large group effort that goes into making something like this come to life. After brainstorming and finding an ideal location, it’s up to the event organizers to work with Gasteinertal Tourism and the local tourism offices of Bad Hofgastein, Bad Gastein and Dorfgastein to bring plans to fruition. It’s a process which takes months and  requires the help of many unsung heroes. One person who is clearly vital to success is the primary contact/ single point of entry to Gastein. We have the privilege of working with one of the most engaged people possible in this role, Bad Gastein Tourism Director, Doris Höhenwarter. Together with her colleagues Franz Naturner (Gastein), Gerald Wenger (Bad Hofgastein) and Alexandra Portenkirchner (Dorfgastein), she is paving the way for a successful event premiere.

I was lucky enough to ask Doris about this beautiful valley and we were able to hear her side of the planning process and also get some tips for those who will join us in June (22-24) for the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships.

Doris has been the head of tourism in Bad Gastein since 2009 and is a proud native of the little alpine region in the middle of Austria. She loves time in the mountains and be it summer or winter she spends nearly all of her free time on the ski slopes or paths of the peaks that surround her home valley.

“Above all I am drawn to lonely remote mountains and fortunately there are still enough of them in Gastein. Besides an excellent, developed mountain tourism (best example for this is the position of the four summer mountains of the Gastein mountain railway) there are still many very untouched corners in the valley and it should stay that way.”

Though there were many other incredible locations that bid for the right to host the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships, Gastein came out on top and Doris explained why she believes they beat out the competition:

“Besides being able to offer an extensive health and wellness aspect, Gastein has 600 km of existing hiking paths and trails and along these paths there are about 60 alpine pastures, most of which are cultivated. With the Alpenarena and the Alpentherme in Bad Hofgastein and with the new thermal water lake, a perfect setting for the start and the finish line is already available. Therefore, no additional infrastructure had to be built up and the existing resources and facilities could be used and integrated perfectly.”

On top of its picturesque mountains and villages, the ideal infrastructure and the benefit of the healing powers of the hot springs, Gastein prides itself on being able to host an environmentally friendly event. They have worked tirelessly in bringing the local farmers and other residents on board for the project and want it to be a positive experience for absolutely everyone involved.

“It is very important to me that the runners are enthusiastic about Gastein,” said Ms. Höhenwarter, “and especially about the special event design. Every athlete should go home with a smile and come back again with pleasure. It is also my goal to arouse the enthusiasm of the local population and the guests on site, even those who are not directly connected with trail running should have a positive impression.”

“It’s indeed very important that we keep our promises to the property owners, the huts, innkeepers and hotels and enable an optimal cooperation, only in this way a successful continuation of the event is possible.”

I asked Doris about some possible activities or highlights that people could do or see either before or after the event.

“Fortunately, all highlights are really integrated in the tracks or directly at the event, no matter if you want to see the Gastein waterfall or the high valley Sportgastein, the Swiss pine stone trail on Graukogel or the highest grassy mountain in Europe the Gamskarkogel, the participants experience the most beautiful spots in the valley during the race.”

HERE you will find spectator packages with several different options whether you like to hike, bike or take the more relaxed route of the gondola to the peak of Stubnerkogel.

“I would recommend the visitors to take a flight with the Zipline ‘Flying Waters’. Experiencing the waterfall from a bird’s eye view and seeing the unique scenery from this perspective is really a highlight,” said the tourism director.

In general, those who visit the valley – tucked away in the middle of the Austrian alps – should have very high expectations when they come in June.

Doris is very enthusiastic about her valley.  “Gastein is a region that is extraordinarily varied, has an unspoilt impressive mountain world but also has a system for relaxation and recreation after the exertions of the race.”

“The spectators should have the feeling that the weekend is not only a ‘racing competition’ but it should feel like a real holiday with good regional food, yoga, mountains and thermal baths. If you like, you can also support your loved ones during the race and cheer for your ‘buddies’ at the most beautiful places in Gastein.”

I asked the Gastein guru for a few tips for those traveling for the first time to the valley.

  • Take advantage of the great benefits to be taken from the thermal water and hots springs

“The thermal water of Gastein has the gift to activate our self-healing powers. Naturally enriched with radon, the energy of water balances your body’s immune system. For centuries, people with chronic musculoskeletal disorders have been making pilgrimages to Gastein to benefit from the effects of thermal water.”

The thermal springs were popular among the very elite of Europe for hundreds of years starting from Roman times. The spot has been visited by emperors and kings, poets and saints for well over 1,000 years — and for something to have that sort of staying power it must really work.

  • Don’t stress about traveling without an auto. You can easily reach Gastein and get around the entire valley without a car.

“The Gastein Valley can be easily reached by train, the stations are in the immediate vicinity of the town centers and there is a very well developed public bus network in the valley. With the Gastein Card (available free of charge from the landlord at every hotel) you can use the bus for only €1.50 while traveling anywhere in the valley.”

What does she ask of the athletes and their friends and family who come to the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships?

“Respect nature and enjoy the event.”

The keys to a successful trail running event are fairly simple but very difficult to actually realize. Gastein/SalzburgerLand gives the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships every possibility to achieve its most important goals of having an epicly enjoyable, uniquely recognizable and environmentally sustainable event.

I mean, seriously, you can run in these mountains!…




…Stay at these historic places!


…Recoup in these thermal waters!


I’m in.

Are you?


-Kevin Gillikin